Sunday, July 28, 2002

Five questions with Bud Collins

By Michael Perry,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The main draw of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters begins in eight days, so it's time to talk some tennis.

        Boston Globe correspondent Bud Collins, a veteran tennis journalist, took some time this week to discuss a few topics with Enquirer reporter Michael Perry.

        Q. Who, on the ATP Tour, excites you right now?

        A. (Lleyton) Hewitt is obviously exciting. He's real scrappy, and he's at No. 1. That's pretty obvious. I'm always excited by Andre Agassi. I'm excited by the fact he's grown up so well, from a real pain to a very thoughtful person. And I think he has a wonderful game to watch. I'll tell you a kid I really like to watch: Mikhail Youzhny, he's a young (20-year-old) Russian. I think he has such a beautiful game. It's so different from most of the players who are just slugging away with topspin all the time.

        Q. How do you assess the state of American men's tennis?

        A. Well, the men are in a down cycle, I would say. The women are in an up cycle. It's usually one way or the other. It's just one of those things. I think there are some kids coming along. (Andy) Roddick is having a tough time in his sophomore year, so to speak. On the other hand, I think he's an exciting player and a good kid, and he'll get with it. I think he has a lot to learn and he's realizing that. He had some early success so people are not taking him lightly and they're beating him. He's very young (19), after all.

        Q. Have American fans been spoiled?

        A. Well, you do. You had seven guys when you had (Pete) Sampras, Agassi, (Jim) Courier, Todd Martin, MaliVai Washington and Michael Chang, and I think that was the greatest American crop ever.

        When you had all the success, the game wasn't properly nurtured. And I think that can be said of the whole game when tennis was in the boon of the '70s and '80s. They didn't follow up on it. I don't think there are as many kids playing tennis today in the United States as you would think in a huge country like this. The other sports have stolen the good athletes. I think the USTA is realizing that now, and they're trying to do something and spending millions of dollars.

        Q. What do you make of the Williams sisters (Venus and Serena)?

        A. I think they're just marvelous. When I hear people say they're not good for the game, I say, "Wake up. What do you mean great athletes aren't good for the game?' Is Tiger Woods bad for golf? Right now they are THE two players, and then you sort of have to get a pair of binoculars to see who's next.

        Q. As a fan or observer of the game, do you prefer watching the men or women play?

        A. I prefer watching the women for the most part. Everybody (in the men's game) is becoming a slugger. That's why I like the kid Youzhny. That's why I like Patrick Rafter. They're doing more than just staying at the baseline and slugging. That's why I liked Martina Hingis when she was playing. She was very clever, she used the angles and she had a wonderful reign until the other girls grew up, and then they shoved her aside.


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